How to migrate from analog to IP cameras

How to decide what to keep, what to replace as you make the switch

[Editor's note: John Honovich publishes this and other information on network video at]

Migrating from analog to IP can be tricky, mainly because most everyone has existing infrastructure in place. You rarely can simply throw out that infrastructure and start anew - the economics usually do not support it. Because of that, you need to figure out what to keep, what to replace and what to modify.

The issues involved are too complex to provide a simple boilerplate yes or no. This report examines the most critical elements in making the transition from analog cameras to IP cameras so that you can better appreciate the issues involved for your circumstances. Nonetheless, you will have to spend significant time learning and evaluating as the issues involved are significant.

Here is a summary of those key elements:

  • Determine if your DVR supports IP cameras

  • Determine what IP camera manufacturers your DVR support

  • If needed, assess options for NVRs or IP Video Management Software

  • Determine if IP cameras can eliminate long distance analog cabling

  • Determine if higher resolution cameras can help you

  • Assess the increased bandwidth impact on your networks

  • Determine if you can afford increased storage for megapixel cameras

DVR Supports IP Cameras

First check whether your DVR supports IP cameras.  Most DVRs that cost more than $3,000 USD usually supports some form of IP cameras today. However, most of the more 'budget' type DVRs do not.

You should determine this first because it is the key element in determining how complex adding in IP cameras will be.  If your DVR does not support IP cameras, you have a few options, none of which I think are very attractive: (1) you could monitor the IP cameras directly with no recorder, (2) you could set up a separate NVR to record the IP cameras or (3) you could decode the IP camera's video stream to record them on your existing DVRs.  Most professional security organizations want a single video management system to record and access all cameras which means that you either work with what you have or replace it.

What IP Cameras Your DVR Supports

If you DVR supports IP cameras, you definitely need to find out what manufacturers and models of IP cameras they support.  Many DVR suppliers only support 1 or a small number of IP camera manufacturers.

This can be really confusing and surprising coming from the analog camera world. With analog cameras, no one worried about whether a DVR could support a fixed camera because once you supported 1 analog camera, you supported them all.  However, with IP cameras, you have to check every time for not only manufacturer support but for specific model support (i.e., a DVR manufacturer may support the Axis 207 but not the Axis 221).

Determining what IP cameras a DVR supports is very important because different manufacturs specialize in different types of products.  If your DVR only supports 1 or 2 camera manufacturers, this could cause significant problems. For instance, there are specialists in high end, standard definition cameras (Axis); budget standard definition cameras (ACTi); inexpensive multi-megapixel cameras (Arecont Vision); high end multi-megapixel cameras (IQinvision), etc.  You need to determine what types of IP cameras you need and whether those are supported by your DVR.

These first two points will help you understand the degree of difficulty of adding in IP cameras.

NVRs or IP Video Management Software

At this stage many will reach a point where you need to consider replacing your DVR system.  The emerging alternative are designed to support dozens of IP cameras. If you get to this point, this will be a challenge in and of itself.  There are dozens of companies that offer NVRs or IP Video Management software.

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